As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer. If you have a story you'd like to share but aren't sure about how to put it into words, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "As Told To" for your story to be featured.
This is Janell's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
Hi. My name is Janell and I am a recovering sex addict.
And I remember the exact conversation with my friend of 15+ years when she told me that she thought I was an addict at all. After she said it, I was so taken aback by the comment.
"You think so?" I asked, almost in disbelief.
"Definitely," she responded.
I'm very self-reflective, and naturally a very open person, so I called my best friend of 25+ years, gave her no context, and asked her the same question. She didn't hesitate to agree.
I knew at that moment, I had a problem.
Growing up, I don't remember ever really discovering sex. My earliest memory of anything sexual was my mom sitting me down to have "the talk" in the 1st or 2nd grade. I remember this girl in my fifth grade class telling one of the boys that she was horny and they would play truth or dare or hide-and-freak, all of which disgusted me. I can recall getting a letter from my elementary school crush that read "I want to make you say ughhhhhhhhh" and how dirty and embarrassed it made me feel.
I didn't start exploring sex until high school with my boyfriend at the time. Even though I was in love with him, I really only used him to spite my mother as a rebellious teenager. I went to a private Christian school my whole life, went to church, was saved and sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. I attended an all women's college in the mountains of Virginia secluded from everything, including men (but I made sure to find them). From there, I went to law school in Baltimore, practiced law for a year, and eventually found my way back home in Atlanta.
I say all that to say, I probably look nothing like a sex addict—whatever that would be. But in hindsight, a combination of all the above is what ultimately led me down an ugly, unhealthy trail of promiscuity.
Wale said it best:
"But the problem is probably a deep past,
Still I'm feelin' of somethin' I need bad"
Anyway, as I got older, I became infatuated with the act of intercourse. I regularly collected f*ck buddies, and had lots of them. Somehow having someone that you could consistently bang, with no strings attached, made the idea of hoeing, less slutty. I would sex the same guy every day for extended periods of time, rinse and repeat. And I felt no shame in doing so.
Courtesy of Janell Henderson
I also never really chose my partners; intense sexual energy always seemed to find me. This is why I am now such a believer in the transference of energy, because most of my partners often struggled with sex addiciton too. I was always chosen and rarely took an active role in who I dated. Most times, I was just way too open to whomever came my way. This is not at all how I choose to date now, but then it was just too easy.
I was easy. *cringes in judgement*
Life came at me fast when about five or six months into the situation with one of my partners, his grandmother passed. I knew she had been sick because oftentimes when I went over to his house, he would be on the phone with family members discussing her health—though he and I never crossed that line and never had those types of discussions. One late night after the club, as I frequently would, I showed up at his job so we could go home together and have sex into the morning, as we always did. But this night he got a phone call and broke down crying. Not knowing what to do and being a woman, I offered to accompany him to see his dying grandmother, thinking surely he would turn me down. Mostly because a) he had just rejected the same offer from his best friend, who also was there during this call, and b) we were only f*ck buddies.
But shockingly, he accepted. So, I went to the hospital with him and sat by his grandmother's dying bedside for two days.
When we left the hospital, I was relieved to go back to our normal routines. I knew he was supposed to go to work the next day but because I was concerned that he hadn't slept in a few days, I reached out—something that we just didn't do before. I didn't get an answer so I immediately thought that something was wrong and decided to stop by his house to check on him. And chiilllddddd…he was there, in his room, loud as hell, and having sex with someone else. I was livid. But here's the wild part: it wasn't because I had feelings for him, or had fallen for him after a family tragedy like a damn Tyler Perry movie.
I realized I was only upset because in that moment, it wasn't me that was having sex. It was time to seek help.
Since I Google everything, I took a shot and googled "sex addiction". Lo and behold, Sexaholics Anonymous popped right up—and it was free, just as Alcoholics Anonymous or Debt Anonymous would be. I thought to myself, Who can beat free help? I had been to therapy before, and I knew how draining the process of finding a therapist could be: from finding one you actually want to commit to, to availability and money. These all slow the rehabilitation process down. SA gave me quick access to help and it seemed like a quick fix, so I signed up immediately. I literally was in class three or four days later.
SA was very similar to AA. You go around the room, share a little about yourself—without disclosing too much. The group leader, who I actually recognized because I'd see him out on occasion (go figure), would read an excerpt from the SA tenant book and then ask us to speak about how it made us feel, or if we could relate. I was the only woman in my tenant sessions, which didn't bother me at all. Women tend to behave more harshly towards women when it comes to sex. Most men could care less. In fact, every man who knew found it eerily attractive and I knew that, so I was comfortable.
It felt like home to be honest.
But for once, I wasn't there for the men. I was there for me; and furthermore, none of these men were the type of men I would have ever slept with. Even though admittedly my picking was lax, I was well aware that certain settings guaranteed all my partners were college educated, employed and regularly went to the gym. But in SA, I was laser-focused and being the only woman never even crossed my mind.
By our second meeting, a light bulb went off as clear as day and I got all the answers I was looking for. I attended one more session, collected my thoughts, and began focusing on evolving towards a higher purpose. I haven't attended SA since.
Ultimately, what I learned is an addiction is an addiction.
And most people—whether they can admit it or not—to some degree, have been addicted to something in their lifetime. All negative behaviors have a trigger, and to fix those negative behaviors, you have to identify and know your triggers to be able to recognize and avoid repeated cycles. What you feed on, will ultimately devour you in the end. Not only did I have sex every single day, I was around sexual energy all the time. I went to strip clubs regularly, listened to sexual music, talked about sex constantly; my friends would come to me with all their sex questions. It was sort of like I had become this trained expert. Don't get me wrong, sex was my favorite conversation to have, but my life unbeknownst to me, had a lot of sex in it. I was constantly feeding my addiction and it took me years to escape that mentality and lifestyle.
Today, I feel free. I haven't have sex in almost a year (I lost track of how long), I actively and intentionally decide to be abstinent, and no longer date. The adjustments were difficult but the lesson of learning what to feed my spirit, curbed my appetite. Instead of the radio or music, I choose to listen to sermons on YouTube or business podcasts. I unfollowed anyone on Instagram who casually talked about sex—including many of my favorite celebs. I became much more intentional about what I watch or where I go.
Courtesy of Janell Henderson
Sure, SA didn't stop me from having sex altogether, but it did give me the tools to recognize unhealthy behaviours and patterns to make more responsible decisions. And remember, these are triggers for me, so my adjustments were in response to what triggers me. And they may seem extreme, but when you have an addiction, you have to be extreme.
So. Any regrets? Of course not.
I don't live with regrets. If that's the case, I would definitely lived differently altogether, if given the chance. But we are only given one life, and my goal is to move forward making women feel superior through transformation, alignment and manifestation. I built a business on helping women feel beautiful through thrifted-only clothes—primarily because I used to thrive in superficial, high-end environments. But now, I can honestly say I feel most triumphant when I am having conversations with God in my journal, writing affirmations, visualizing my future, and reading and meditating on the Bible.
Self-love and admiration is purely in the eye of the beholder. Read that again, guys, it's important: Self-love and admiration is purely in the eye of the beholder.
And for me, the only difference between then and now, is from what source I pulled it from.
If you think you have a sex addiction and need help, you can join your local Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. You can also follow Janell on Instagram here to keep up with her journey.
Featured image courtesy of Janell Henderson